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cindyjungers

Breathing Expectation

I Think I Love You

Cold, sick, tired of spring not having sprung. Been a tough couple of weeks for me.

The entire family has been down and out sick, sick, sick. Couple that with the cold winds and the brown ground that shows through when the snow stops for enough days in a row, and you have a recipe for immediate depression.

I am a personality that falls easily into complaint, irritation, frustration, and the blahs. When illness and bleakness carry on for days on end, it gets pretty hard for a girl like me to show any spunk.

Sometimes the only way to get better, to look forward, is to fall back. Back to the ’70s. I am fortunate and blessed that my childhood years were wonderful. Fun, safe, and free spirited. I won’t pretend there weren’t difficult family moments, anger and and occasional brokenheartedness, but that’s a blog for another day (maybe).

When I turn back the clock of time in my head, the memories are always accompanied by a musical soundtrack. Fun ’70s music. Music that I listened to on the transistor radio both at the beach and by my beside, blasting from the car stereo (well, AM only) while my dad or brother did the backyard car repair stuff, and on the living room stereo while my sister and I played games and chatted endlessly.

Songs that run through my head without any prompting include Dreamweaver, Silly Love Longs, Oh What a Night, Don’t Go Breaking My Heart, If You Leave Me Now, Beach Baby, Benny and the Jets, and Chevy Van. You get the picture I’m sure. Although I’d be remiss not to share that sometimes even the Captain and Tenille and Tony Orlando and Dawn creep into the reminiscing. And, of course, the ’70s musical repertoire would not be complete without selections by the Partridge Family. Not only are the songs nostalgically uplifting, but they remind me of some pretty great ’70s TV shows–Happy Days, Brady Bunch, and Welcome Back, Kotter leading the pack.

I know better than to think the past is the only good time of my life. It’s all been good in its own way with more. But sometimes I need that little boost to remember. After I take even 5 minutes to think back to these happy days of my own, I’m smiling. And now I have the vision to see that big, fat robin in the front yard. A sure sign of spring and better days to come.220px-The_Partridge_Family_Album

 

“This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24 (NIV)

 

 

 

Blogging, An Unexpected Spiritual Art

I started blogging in August of 2013 as a response to a difficult life situation. The point was not to dwell or get lost in the difficulty but rather to remember to be grateful for life and all the marvelous things that still held true.

I blogged almost every day for the remainder of that year, using my words to count my blessings. Counting blessings sounds so cliche, yet is so true when one considers the many things for which to be thankful and so important to a truly healthy life and perspective.

The tough season and the catharsis of public writing changed me in ways I did not foresee. In some ways, I am quieter, more thoughtful, and definitely more careful. Not bad qualities. Just different. And sometimes they don’t feel like they fit my skin. But skin adapts to the shape of the body eventually and I am more comfortable with myself today.

The greatest good of that season and today is the spiritual shaping that is taking place. Some days the change happens through a gentle rub. Other days have felt like a chisel against hard clay. But the beauty that comes forth is worth the touch, no matter the depth of the pressure applied.

The truth is, Christ has changed me. Graciously and mercifully he has changed me into someone who looks for the good. Some days I don’t feel like looking. Other days it’s harder to find things for which to give thanks. Those are often the best days because they require some extra effort. And that is the difference. I am making the effort.

Some of you shake your head about what I believe or my words make you uncomfortable. Or you misunderstand what I’ve written and I have to work through my own discomfort of sorting out what I could have said better or wondering if writing is worth my time, even when I know it is.

As I close out 2015, what I know for sure is that I am meant to write. Whether my blog gets forty or zero views in a day. Whether anybody believes in what I have to say. Whether or not you find yourself nodding along quietly. My words have been my stepping stone from darkness to light and a reminder to trust in Jesus every single day.

May you find your hope in 2016-Cindy

  
PS: To all of you out there who have continually encouraged me – Thank you!

2015 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 310 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 5 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

The Season of Between

Christmas is over and we are in the gap until the New Year. I call this time The Season of Between. It seems this week is always a period of “getting over” and “gearing up.” I’m getting over the parts of the past year that I didn’t like. A mixture of things that happened that I couldn’t control but also the things I could. And wish I hadn’t. You know, regrets for the things I selfishly orchestrated that didn’t turn out very well. And my attitude. Every year I have a hangover from the attitude I imposed over the last year. This year impatience hangs over the days of 2015. 

I won’t wallow in the regret. It’s unfortunate the time I wasted being irritated because I was impatient, but I’m not staying there. Don’t forget that in this Between, I am also gearing up for the new year and new opportunities. 

In reflecting on 2015 and preparing for 2016, I have determined I need to intentionally and earnestly surrender:

  • Selfishness (that’s #1 on my list for many years running and despite trying to shepherd 4 children I still seem to have plenty of time for self-engaging negative behaviors).
  • Irritation – It is after all a choice to be irritated. The big problem is I stay there. I’m not describing a momentary irritation. This is the kind that holds on all day. You know, when I let my entire day (and everyone else’s) be ruined because someone wore my indoor Crocs out in the dirt. (I know. I know they are easily washable. That’s what I’m talking about–this attitude that takes on a life of its own because I let it get out of control.)
  • Impatience with myself and others because it ultimately leads to bullet 2.
  • Judgment, pride, and arrogance – These get one bullet because my pride won’t allow the list to get too long. 😊 

This may look like a short list but believe me, there are some heavy internal hitters in there. Which means there is only one place to take them. The place where everything has to ultimately get surrendered or it isn’t really gone. The feet of Jesus. Who I was just reminded this week came to seek and save the lost. And boy do I get lost–mostly in myself. Thankfully, he lets me start over. Every year. Every day. Every moment.

  

A New Thankfulness

You are 15. This is the first hunting season you have been allowed in the woods by yourself. You know this is because you have shown your parents you are responsible, careful, resourceful, and have a respect for firearms. You are pleased that you are one step closer to manhood.

For the past 3 weeks, your buddies at school have either shot a deer or talked about the many, many deer they have seen. You have seen none. Except after dark when hunting is over. You believe the animals are taunting you.

It is the last day of hunting season. Your mom drops you off at your grandparents and you begin the walk out to “the big stand.” It’s cold, but you are prepared in your military long underwear, extra layers of warmth and, of course, blaze orange outerwear. You like walking in the woods. You enjoy the silence that you hope will be interrupted by the sound of a buck snorting or a doe tiptoeing her way through the dry leaves.

You think nothing of it when you come to the creek with the beaver dam. You have crossed dozens of uneventful times before. You can see the first stepping stone just below the water and you hop onto it. You can’t see the second or third or additional rocks, but you know they are there because you have done this before. So you take your next step. And that’s when you discover there either is no second stone or you have misjudged its location and you are in t-r-o-u-b-l-e.

Your feet swipe out from under you toward the sky, but like any good hunter you have the presence of mind to throw your rifle on the creek bank before the lower two-thirds of your body goes underwater. You freeze. Not quite literally, but the cold water sucks the possibility of moving out of you. But you have to move, so you make yourself. You slowly pull yourself out of the water.

Suddenly, 26 degrees doesn’t feel very temperate any more. Your feet feel like a thousand knives are stabbing up through their soles all the way to your armpits. You know you have to move, but you aren’t sure you can. You fire 3 shots into the air–a known signal for help. Then you remember no one you know is in the woods with you, but you hope someone else notices or that your mom and grandparents can hear the 3 shots in the house. After a few  minutes you realize that no one is coming. You get up, shoulder your gun (of course), and try to start walking. But you can’t. Your boots are too heavy.

Somehow your frozen fingers manage to untie your cold, heavy boots, and you pull your sopping wet feet out of them. You have no choice but to start running. And so you do. In wet socks, pants, and jacket you run toward the house. Without the boot protection, the thousand knives in your feet are increasing. Every step drives another stick, another rock, or simply another piece of lumpy ground into your cold, cold feet.

Just as you wonder if you can make it all the way, you finally see the house. It’s been only 1/2 a mile or more but feels like you have run a nightmare marathon. You fling open the door, sit down on the bench, and unwanted tears drop from your eyes. Your mom asks what is wrong, but you can’t answer because you don’t have any breath or feeling left in your body. You can tell by her eyes that she thinks you have shot someone or that you yourself have been shot. You answer only, “I can’t feel my feet or legs.” This time when she asks if something happened with the gun, you are able to speak and say, “No I fell into the creek.” You can see she is relieved and she immediately enters into “mom mode” by turning on grandma’s shower and telling you to take off your wet things.

Later when you are warm and dry, she can see you are not yourself. When she asks you what is wrong, you tell her that you are only 15, you don’t even  have your permit yet, and you could have died if things had turned out differently.

This is what happened at our house today. Cherished Middle Son went routinely into the woods and struggled to come out. We talked about how when bad things happen we have an opportunity to go deeper into our thankfulness. I could see the wheels ticking behind his eyeballs as he counted his blessings. Which I’m sure today includes dry socks. I’m pretty certain he has never had reason to be thankful for socks before.

He is also thankful he ran Cross Country this year. At the time, it was a hard decision to decide to run long distance instead of playing football. Today he is glad he did and credits his ability to make his freezing run in wet socks to his cross country training. He says he will thank his coach tomorrow.

As for me, I am so grateful that he knew what to do. I could not care less if his weapon hadn’t made it home today, although it did–safe and dry in fact. I don’t care that his soggy boots are still out by the beaver dam and I don’t care if they never come home. I wonder whether the removal of them was in fact the best course of action, but since he made it back to safety, I’m going with his decision to take them off as the right thing.

I share this story with you because I for one take the people in my life way too much for granted. Had Middle Son not made it back to the house at full dark, I am confident he would have been found, but I am not certain he wouldn’t have suffered frostbite or possibly worse.

You could question why a good God lets bad things happen, but I’d rather focus on the fact that Middle Son was in God’s hands today as he is every day and that provision for his well-being and safety was made ahead of time. Because he was prepared and protected, we have a happy ending.

Every Thanksgiving I reflect on my gratefulness for people, things, and circumstances. This year, the depth of feeling for the people in  my life definitely goes deeper.

buck

Wasted Anger (Subtitled: All the Not So Pretty Little Ponies)

I just spent the better part of 4 hours being angry. Angry because I felt unappreciated, slighted, and misunderstood. Add the emotion of feeling like a failure to the anger because when I tried to put words to the situation, I didn’t do an adequate job of explaining the problem or standing up for what I meant.

I was right. I am absolutely confident of that. So why do I feel so, well, yucky? Part of it is simply letting my emotions overwhelm me and run away with my attitude. I sometimes forget that my emotions are like a pack of wild horses. I have to break them, tame them, and put them back in the barn. (Okay, for you true horsey people, I maybe didn’t get that quite right but I’ll believe you’ll accept the analogy.) Tonight I didn’t tame anything. I reacted. I let my emotions run wild. Unfortunately when I let that happen, the outcome affects my thoughts, my words, sometimes my actions, and definitely other people. Not my best self for sure.

The other reason I feel yucky? The time spent letting my “hate mustangs” run my life was a complete waste of time. I was in the company of others and while I didn’t complain or even hint anything was amiss, I didn’t enjoy myself as much as I could have. I was preoccupied with thoughts of . . . well . . . me. Ick. Yup. True.

And then I was pulled out of myself. Someone I care about shared news of a struggle they are currently enmeshed in. It’s a true difficulty with no set outcome but is likely to be disappointing and create some ongoing hardship.

Suddenly the fact that I had been misunderstood and perhaps misused on one day of my life wasn’t such a big deal anymore. In fact, I feel a little silly. Again, the issue was real. The problem was in how I dealt with it.

When I finished the conversation with my saddened friend, it didn’t require a bit, bridle, or lasso to get my horses back in the barn. They trotted in willingly, heads down, well aware of their emotional overreaction.

So now what? I get to start over. That’s the only good part of messing up. But it is a promise – 

Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. 23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23

One thing about that? I’m not going to wait until morning to hit my reset button.

  

but compared to the things in life that really matter, the event was small potatoes. My emotions were quickly put back in perspective when I was reminded of the things in life that are really difficult and the people who really matter. People, if you are angry, feeling slighted, unappreciated, let go!

Of Locusts and Asian Beetles

Honestly the only downer of our late autumn warm weather is the plethora of Asian beetles that seem to spring from nowhere and everywhere all at once. Hard to enjoy a few quiet moments on the porch with them landing in the cuffs of my sweahirt and climbing on my shoes–let alone alighting in my hair.

A few Sundays ago it was another unseasonably warm day. Despite my best efforts and prevention, the spotted creatures drove me from my porch again. That particular day was the thickest I have ever seen them. Asian beetles to the left, the right, before, behind, above, and below. And all trying (and succeeding!) to gain entry to my home. I joked to one of my friends that the experience was reminiscent of the plagues of locusts and flies in Exodus.

The return of those sorry little bugs today reminded me again of the plagues. I thought about what awful experiences those must have been. Take my beetle troubles and multiply them by 10,000 and you might get the start of the picture.  As an aside, I’m fairly certain they didn’t have screens in those days.

The word “locusts” also reminds me of two other verses in the bible. Two truths that I am seeing come true in this present day:

So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the crawling locust, the consuming locust, and the chewing locust.

My great army which I sent among you. You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied and praise the name of the Lord your God who has dealt wondrously with you and my people shall never be put to shame. Joel 2:25-26

When I started this blog in 2013 it was during a time I categorize as a great trial for me and my immediate family. I wrote through (and sometimes because of) that pain and misunderstanding and truly wondered if life would ever be the same again. 

It isn’t. A person can’t go through a tremendously difficult situation and come out the same. In the midst of it all, I struggled. And out of that struggle came shape. Not one I’m entirely comfortable with because I am warier and more suspicious. But what I gained from the experience is worth my life.

I learned to trust God. To really trust that I am not random, forgotten or uncared for. I have a purpose, a mission, and a method. And when the winds of doubt blow hard, I can think back to those really difficult days and know the truth.

Today I see and stand on the truth of Joel 2:25-26. The years the locusts have eaten are being restored day by day, moment by moment, step by step. Not all has been restored as it was, but we have plenty, we are satisfied, and we praise and glorify God for holding us steady in trial and blessing us in ways we could not have foreseen.

We are not put to shame. The restoration continues and I am awed.

  

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On Overcoming Fretting

I am simply so grateful. Cold toes stretched out in front of the fire. Scary book and cup of tea to my right. Dog below the foot of the recliner. And–wonder of wonders–I’m the only one in the living room right now. It is q-u-i-e-t.

More surprising than my male-dominated household being currently soundless is the quiet I find within myself. I am ridiculously (in a good way) at peace. I am also astounded.

You see, I have myself in a fairly unhealthy life pattern where I am working too much, eating things like cereal and Oreos for meals, and constantly fretting. Oh how I hate that word! Fretting. It just sounds fussy and needy and tiring. And yet, fretting I have been. (No wonder I’m alone.)

The truth is I do have a tough workload at the moment (yes, the moment) with some tight deadlines. So being a little stressed would be acceptable. But this over-the-top wallowing in busyness and counting all the things I am not getting done is simply a time waster and also bad for my mood. Which not coincidentally is bad for everyone at home. (Did I mention I’m alone?)

So tonight I faced my fretting. And I realized that 24 hours in a day is just not going to cut all that I have going on right now.There is only one answer. I have to let go and be okay with releasing my grip because there is no other way to be healthy, enjoy life, and do good work. Now the ugly part that I’m reluctant to share is I also realized that I only fret when I really groove on this awful “I’m too busy” cycle. If I’m fretting, I have to recognize that means I am also being short (read: unkind) with people and I am not attending to the needs of others with the attention they deserve because I am too busy thinking about ME. Wow. I don’t like that. Or admitting it. But it’s true.

That’s how I arrived at peace tonight. By facing the selfishness and saying, “God, this is not what I want. You made me better than this. I’m sorry.” So simple and yet it has taken me weeks to get here. Or, truthfully, perhaps years.

I started blogging just over 2 years ago to remind myself to be grateful, to count God-given blessings publicly, and because I generally enjoy writing. You’ll notice fewer posts this year than last. I guess the fretting overtook me to a point where one of us had to go. I’m glad it’s me still in the living room. Maybe tomorrow I’ll have company.

13 Verses

I’ve been considering reading It’s Good to be Queen by Liz Curtis Higgs but just haven’t gotten around to getting my hands on the book. I even went so far as to sign up for the online study. Still I didn’t purchase the book. But I keep thinking about it, which tells me it will not be a waste of time. 

This morning I received an extra prompt in my email with a link to a video on Vimeo with Liz teaching on chapter one. I clicked the link and was pleased to see the video was 11 minutes long. (Keep in mind if I possessed a longer attention span, I would have stayed focused long enough to have bought the book by now.)

Previously I had wondered to myself how anyone could write an entire book on only 13 verses of the bible. But guess what? The entire 11 minutes was on verse one. And it was incredibly captivating.

My own version of the story had always followed these lines: Incredibly wealthy supreme ruler queen gets bored and decides to seek out the “wise guy” everybody is talking about. She hangs out in his kingdom for a few months, maybe they fall in love, and then she heads back to her own sultry country to live out her days in charge of absolutely everything. 

I will never have such a careless view of this excerpt again. What Liz taught me is that the queen had a thirst for wisdom. Enough such that she traveled approximately 1500 miles winding through the Arabian desert toward Jerusalem. Sandy miles, probably with little opportunity for bathing. On the back of a camel. I can only imagine the discomfort. Maybe she had a palanquin. But still . . .

What makes a person choose to do such a thing? I believe as Liz explains (with more to come later in the book I’m sure so forgive me if you’ve read it and I get some of this wrong) it’s to learn the source. Where does Solomon’s wisdom originate? We of course know the answer is God because we have access to the book that tells us so. 

Why does a pagan queen with more gods than she can count care about Solomon’s wisdom and where it comes from? I believe she was compelled. Compelled by a merciful, gracious God who wants to save everyone. On her own she was perhaps curious, wanting to match wits with a legendary mind who was talked about as far away as Ma’rib. But would she really have made the trip simply to check him out? I believe it was something more. Someone she likely did not know or understand when she hopped on the back of her camel.

That’s what I’ve learned so far. From just one verse. Gotta go. I have a book to buy.

  

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